ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The mayor of Minneapolis said Monday he has nailed down commitments of support from a majority of city council members for the latest Minnesota Vikings stadium proposal, potentially clearing one obstacle to getting the stalled stadium bill moving again at the Capitol.
The bill under consideration proposes a $975 million stadium in downtown Minneapolis at the current Metrodome site, and taps existing city sales taxes to the tune of $150 million to cover a local cost share. Supporters fear that without the 13-member council’s backing the public will get to vote — and possibly kill — the proposal.
At a Capitol news conference, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Council President Barbara Johnson released signed letters from seven council members who say they would vote in favor of the proposal and forgo a citywide referendum on the issue.
“Is it time to build it? I think it is,” Rybak said.
The city’s charter contains a provision that any city expense above $10 million for a sports stadium must be approved by voters. The current stadium plan circumvents that requirement by redirecting an existing city sales tax. Rybak said the Minneapolis city attorney believes a citywide vote is not legally required.
Gary Schiff, a council member opposed to the proposal, said critics would likely sue to force a referendum.
Even without a referendum, supporters of the plan still have a tough climb at the Capitol. The bill has been in limbo since a Senate committee tabled it earlier this month.
The bill’s lead Senate sponsor, Sen. Julie Rosen, said nailing down Minneapolis support would help to get it moving again before the legislative session is done at the end of April.
The Legislature must still work out wrinkles in a plan to cover the state’s $398 million share of the stadium costs with tax revenue from a gambling expansion. The plan to offer electronic versions of several paper-based games of chance now sold by charities at Minnesota bars, has been criticized by organizations that represent the charities for not sharing a bigger portion of projected new profits. Gov. Mark Dayton told the news conference Monday that members of his administration continue to work with the charities to address those concerns.
In addition, some state lawmakers have said they’re worried that gambling revenue is an unpredictable means of paying for a major construction project. They’re asking stadium supporters to find a backup funding source so that state taxpayers don’t have to plug the gap if gambling projections don’t pan out.
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